MSF teams providing care to COVID patients in Antonio Lorena hospital, Cusco, Peru.
Press release |

Disingenuous EU initiative attempts to derail negotiations on TRIPS Waiver of COVID-19 monopolies

Photograph by Clément Locquet
MSF teams providing care to COVID patients in Antonio Lorena hospital, Cusco, Peru.

Geneva/Brussels, June 29 2021 — Last week, the first informal discussion was held on the European Union (EU) initiative focusing on compulsory licensing at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The EU first submitted a communication paper on 4th June to the WTO and then revised it into a proposed draft declaration on 18th June. The initiative is seen as an attempt to counter the “TRIPS Waiver” proposal being led by South Africa and India with 63 co-sponsoring WTO members to waive intellectual property (IP) on lifesaving COVID-19 medical tools during this pandemic. 

While MSF has long been a supporter and advocate of compulsory licenses, the mechanism is insufficiently adapted to address the IP challenges on medical technologies in a global pandemic. The EU initiative does not address the shortcomings of the current compulsory licensing mechanism, undermines existing TRIPS flexibilities and risks delaying the urgent adoption of the TRIPS Waiver proposal (see our detailed analysis on the EU initiative).   

Countries are meeting tomorrow for another round of informal session to discuss the TRIPS Waiver and the EU initiative.

Dimitri Eynikel, EU Policy Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign 

There is no point in wasting precious time on an EU initiative that does not provide any new or real solutions

Dimitri Eynikel
EU Policy Advisor
MSF’s Access Campaign

“The EU initiative is nothing more than window dressing on a system that is already in place, which has shown during this pandemic to be insufficient when it comes to improving people’s access to COVID-19 medical tools.

“The EU initiative is a disingenuous attempt to derail a process started almost nine months ago and supported by more than 100 governments across the globe to allow countries to swiftly and comprehensively lift intellectual property barriers to facilitate unhindered production and supply of medical tools to protect their people in this deadly pandemic.

“It is disheartening to note that governments have jumped to discuss the EU initiative a mere few days after it was submitted, even though the discussions on the “TRIPS Waiver” proposal, first put forward by India and South Africa almost nine months ago, are still going on.

“There is no point in wasting precious time on an EU initiative that does not provide any new or real solutions to overcome current barriers to compulsory licensing mechanisms. The EU and other countries must prioritise the negotiations on the TRIPS Waiver and fast-track its adoption as people in low- and middle-income countries continue to be hit by deadly waves of COVID-19.”

South African activists protest in support of the WTO TRIPS Waiver

No Patents, No Monopolies in a Pandemic

Monopolies are often an obstacle between people and the lifesaving health tools they need. Patents and other exclusivities limit supply and keep prices high.

In this unprecedented global emergency, governments have taken an incredibly strong stance at the World Trade Organization (WTO), proposing to allow countries to temporarily waive the obligations of enforcing patents, trade secrets and other types of intellectual property (IP) during the COVID-19 pandemic – to boost global production and supply so that everyone, everywhere has access to lifesaving treatments, vaccines, tests and other medical tools needed to beat back this pandemic.

Support this action by urging these last remaining opponents of the TRIPS Waiver to show global solidarity and stop blocking it!

Photo by Tadeu Andre